“Do you know the first time I saw you?”
Beatryce wasn’t sure she wanted to hear this. “Tell me.” She encouraged him to speak anyway.
“It was the night of the Rutherford Ball in May of ’13. Do you recall it?”
“Somewhat.” She answered noncommittally, though she tensed with worry.
“I was outside, on assignment and hiding in the shadows, when you stepped out onto the back terrace. Your laugh preceded you and I felt it all over.” She remembered. That was him in the shadows?
“Could you see me in the shadows?”
“I-I knew you were there, but I did not know it was you. I could only see a vague outline of your form.” She decided to be truthful; he probably wouldn’t remember this in the morning anyway.
“I nearly broke my cover and introduced myself, then and there. I had wanted you at first sight.”
“Did you?” What else could she say to that? Now more than ever she was sure she didn’t want to hear this.
“Then Middlebury joined you on that terrace. Do you remember that?”
“Y-Yes.” She would not be dishonest; she would own her actions.
“He touched you. I wanted to break his fingers. The desire to do so was unreasonable, but real…and strong.”
Her heart fluttered at his admission, despite the base nature of his revelation.
“Then I became angry with you. I heard what you said, what you two discussed. You’d both ruined a girl on purpose.”
“Yes, we did.”
“I hated you then.” She hated to know it. “Yet for a moment I thought I saw regret and desperation flash in your eyes. Was I imagining things, Bea?”
“No. You weren’t.” She spoke honestly, confident he’d remember nothing in the morning for his speech kept getting lower and slower as he fell his way toward sleep. “I felt this inexplicable trust in you, hiding there in the shadows. As if you were my guardian angel, sent down from heaven to watch over me. For once in my life, I wanted to be vulnerable and allow someone else to protect me, to keep me safe. For some reason, I knew you were up to the task and I pled with you the only way I could. I willed you to step in and intervene. To take me away from my life.”
“Guardian angel?” He laughed, inappropriate though it was to her admission of vulnerability, but then, he was the worse for drink. “And here I was battling far more base urges.”
She couldn’t help but laugh, too. It was in the past and so long ago; she’d long since overcome her fanciful imaginings that night, and her disappointment that she’d been wrong.
And his response was so typically…masculine. Base urges, indeed.
“I’m no guardian angel, but had I known…I would have tried my best.”